Hooray for science! In what’s being labelled a major breakthrough, American scientists have successfully restored a mouse’s fertility using 3D-printed ovaries – how amazing is that?!
The ‘holy grail of bioengineering’
For the first time ever, scientists have been able to restore fertility in a living creature. No small feat, it’s being called ‘the holy grail of bioengineering for regenerative medicine’ and is giving hope to thousands of women everywhere struggling with fertility.
What they did was remove a mouse’s ovaries and replace them with 3D printed bioprosthetic ones using gelatin as the “ink.” Then by using using eggs from different mice, our furry friend was able to ovulate once again, conceive and give birth to baby mice (pups).
“The pups were [also] supported by the mother’s milk — and the pups were able to give birth or sire pups of their own, so they were healthy through adulthood and [they were] fertile,” co-lead researcher Assistant Professor Monica Laronda, from Northwestern University and the Ann and Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital, said to ABC News.
What does this mean for humans?
Female fertility challenges could get a good kick in the pants sooner than later because the scientists (let’s call them miracle workers okay?), are hoping to use these 3D-printed ovaries to also restore fertility and hormone production in women. Unfortunately more research is needed before it will be available, but this could become a complete game changer for those who have had cancer treatment, childhood cancer, premature ovarian failure or had their ovaries removed.
In fact they even specifically used 3D printing to create the mice ovaries because it can be “scalable and amendable to changes in size, architecture or materials that may be required for success in humans,” said Dr Laronda.
Ovaries could be just the beginning
Never been done before, this was the first ever transplant using soft tissue and functional 3D-printed organs which could also open the doors for successful transplants other than ovaries.
“We think that this could help research into other organs as well that require similar functional unit dynamics,” said Dr Laronda.
And according to Northwestern University’s Women’s Health Research Institute director Teresa K Woodruff, the bioprosthetic ovaries also have long-term, durable function.
“Using bioengineering, instead of transplanting from a cadaver, to create organ structures that function and restore the health of that tissue for that person, is the holy grail of bioengineering for regenerative medicine.”
And if you’re wondering what 3D-printing is, it’s when three-dimensional objects are created using a computer, software and a 3D printer. The technology is actually really old and you can even buy home kits for less than $500, but best to leave the organ creation to the scientists.
Who knew printing was so cool? Three cheers for science!